GEOL 757 - Advanced Seismic Imaging and Tomography

Course Outline Instructor: J. Louie, 217 LME, 784-4219 2:30-3:45 MW in LMR 269 Fall, 2016

Learning Objectives: This course completes after Geol 706 ``a coherent overview of the whole field of data processing as it is used in petroleum exploration,'' (Claerbout, 1985) and is the most advanced course in seismic exploration at the University of Nevada. The course goes beyond the two texts by including introductions to tomography and finite-difference modeling developed by Profs. Robert W. Clayton and John E. Vidale, and material on Kirchhoff migration from Prof. John Louie. Further objectives from Claerbout (1985):
``As it happens, waves are marvelously geometrical objects, and much can be learned with little mathematical analysis. But you should begin the book having previous familiarity with calculus, complex exponentials, and Fourier transformation.
``Your knowledge won't be complete if you don't know some opinions as well as the facts. You will be getting opinions as well as facts when I explain the discrepancies between theory and industrial practice, and when I explain what should work but doesn't seem to.
``Prospecting for oil begins with seismic soundings. The echoes are processed by computer into images that reveal much geological history. Worldwide, echo sounding and image making constitute about a four-billion-dollar-per-year activity.
``... the skills developed in this book, computer implementations of concepts from physics, will always be of general utility.''

Schedule: 2:30-3:45 most Mondays and Wednesdays in LMR 269.

Lectures: Two 75-minute lectures each week.


  1. Jon Claerbout, 1992, Earth Soundings Analysis: Processing versus Inversion (PVI), Blackwell, ISBN #0-86542-210-9, out of print. Available from the instructor and in the DeLaMare Library. Read the text on-line at Stanford. Here is a 4 Mb PDF version built by the author in 2006.

  2. Jon Claerbout, 1985, Imaging the Earth's Interior (IEI), Blackwell, ISBN #0-86542-304-0, out of print. Available from the instructor and in the DeLaMare Library. Read it on-line at Stanford; or download your own copy in PDF format, in parts through pages: 50; 100; 150; 200; 250; 300; 350; 400 (up to 1.7 Mb each).

  3. Jon Claerbout, 1999, Geophysical Estimation By Example (GEE), Free. Available only on-line from Stanford.

The lecture notes are available for you to read and annotate in class. View the folder of PDF lecture notes.

The recorded lectures will be available as downloadable video files, a few days after each class. View the folder of lecture video files.
Lecture videos with captions are available from YouTube.


Grading: Two Term Projects 100%
I encourage any student needing to request accommodations for a specific disability to please meet with me at your earliest convenience to ensure timely and appropriate accommodations.

Original, individual projects are required and should be selected in consultation with the instructor. Possible projects vary widely and can take the form of literature reviews, theoretical demonstrations, application development, or data analysis. For each project the student should turn in a five to ten page project report, plus figures and an abstract in the form of an SEG Expanded Abstract (2015 volume as an example), that properly reviews and cites appropriate background literature, fully describes the methods, presents the project results, and discusses their applicability and significance. SEG's Instructions to Geophysics Authors is a good place to examine the standards for a professional paper. Project reports may also take the form of a 20-minute SEG oral presentation. See the instructor for project suggestions, which can also be found within the lab assignments linked from the Geol 706 syllabus.

First Half of Semester

  • Multi-Offset Methods IEI set p. 160
    • Seismic reflection experiment geometry
    • Sorting and gathers
    • Stacking and velocity analysis, IEI set p. 193
      • Normal moveout (NMO)
      • Dip moveout (DMO)
      • Velocity analysis
  • Reflection Imaging
    • 3-d Kirchhoff migration, IEI set p. 228
    • Survey sinking
      • Reciprocity
      • Dip and wavenumber
      • Double square root (DSR) equation
      • Imaging condition
      • F-K multi-offset migration
    • Prestack partial migration
      • NMO as a dip filter
      • Fourier representation of DMO
      • DMO algorithm
    • Acoustic daylight imaging
      • Cross-correlation and virtual sources
      • Noise cross-correlation and group-velocity mapping
    • Diffraction tomography
      • Born approximation
      • WKBJ & far-field approximations
      • Inversion by back projection
      • Iteration
      • Approximations to elastic WE
      • Operator aliasing
      • Prestack Depth Migration (PSDM):
    • Velocity-structure tradeoff
    • Wide-angle experiments
      • Multiphase recording
      • Shallow effects
      • Frequency vs offset
      • Amplitude vs offset
      • Poisson's ratio and lithology
  • Finite-difference modeling

Second Half of Semester

  • Tomography and Lateral Velocity Variation IEI set p. 244
    • Statics & ray coverage
    • Transmission tomography
      • Applications
      • Radon transform
      • Tomographic approximation
      • Linearization, velocity variation
      • Back projection
    • Slant stack (p-tau or array phasing), IEI set p. 212
    • Signal/noise separation and enhancement, IEI set p. 236
      • Coherence
      • Multi-dimensional linear transforms
      • Bayesian signal enhancement
  • Deterministic Traveltimes - on line
    • Finite-Difference Times
    • Deterministic Ray Tracing
    • Traveltime Optimization
      • Nevada methods (not Monte-Carlo)
      • First arrivals
      • Reflection times
      • Reflection coherency
  • Conjugate Operators PVI set p. 106
    • Univariate Problems
      • Crosstalk
      • Noise, Deconvolution
      • Nonstationarity
    • Conjugate Operators
      • Matrices, Products
      • Mappings, Interpolation
      • Inversion, Tomography
  • Conjugate-Gradient Applications
    • Model Fitting, PVI set p. 148
      • Least Squares
      • Iteration, Gradients
      • Deghosting, Synthetics
    • Time-Series Analysis
      • Shaping Filters, Noise
      • Prediction Error Filters
      • Blind Deconvolution
      • Weighted Error Filters
      • Noise Crosscorrelation
    • Missing Data
      • One-Dimensional Filters
      • Spectral Preference
      • Two-Dimensional Interpolation
      • Spatial Predictors
    • Additional Time-Series Topics

All of the codes used in the textbooks are accessible on-line from the Stanford Exploration Project. We also have local copies of: codes from PVI; codes from GEE; and HTML documentation on SEPlib.

For the Radon tomography example discussed in the lectures, the gradient-step, steepest-descent, conjugate-gradient, and Hestenes and Stiefel iteration scripts are available

Reference List to Inspire Projects

Statement on Academic Dishonesty: ''Cheating, plagiarism or otherwise obtaining grades under false pretenses constitute academic dishonesty according to the code of this university. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated and penalties can include canceling a student's enrollment without a grade, giving an F for the course or for the assignment. For more details, see the University of Nevada, Reno General Catalog.''

Statement of Disability Services: ''Any student with a disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak with the Disability Resource Center (Pennington Student Achievement Center, Suite 230) as soon as possible to arrange for appropriate accommodations.''

UNR Official Policy on Audio and Video recording in class: ''Surreptitious or covert video-taping of class or unauthorized audio recording of class is prohibited by law and by Board of Regents policy. This class may be videotaped or audio recorded only with the written permission of the instructor. In order to accommodate students with disabilities, some students may be given permission to record class lectures and discussions. Therefore, students should understand that their comments and questions during class may be recorded.'' But not without their prior knowledge!

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